Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Last Batch of Many, (Too) Many College Football Bowl Games.

Thursday was a good day. Tonight I went 2-0 to increase my bowl record to 8-4 (reminder: I'm not suggesting every game is playable) including 3 straight-up underdog wins on the ML.

As I'm writing this, OSU is handing Colorado it's collective hat and we've still got the Friday games so there's a lot of football still to play.  But the last batch of games, the big money games, might be some of the most interesting of all, and some of the ones that you might not be so quick to take a stab at.....

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. Saturday, December 31st, 10:00 AM CST.

LSU (-3.5) @ Louisville. [59.5]. As much as I want to root for LSU here, it's hard to not pull, at least a little, for Lamar Jackson to have a quality game. The biggest issue, that I see, is that Louisville's offense has never done well against truly top opposition, and their defense is just not as good as a lot of people think it will be.  The Tigers should be motivated to play for Coach O, and I question Louisville's fire since they were hoping for a playoff berth right up until they got roasted by the UH Cougars. One unknown, is LSU down like the rest of their (currently) 1-4 bowl record conference? LSU 24 Louisville 23. Pick: Too many unknowns here, so pass.  But if I like anything I like the UNDER.

TaxSlayer Bowl. Saturday, December 31st, 10:00 AM CST.

Georgia Tech (-3) @ Kentucky. [62.5]. As is always the question when Georgia Tech plays: "Can their opponent stop the run?" Unfortunately for Kentucky, they really can't.  They allow 225 yards per game, and 5.1 yards per carry.  If the Ramblin' wreck gets that kind of production it's going to be a long, long day for the Wildcats.  Paul Johnson is one of those coaches that fan bases love to hate, but who holds on to his job by doing just enough to keep from getting fired. I think the Yellow Jackets continue to pile on to the SEC, who is absorbing some blows this year. GA Tech 42 Kentucky 30. Pick: Georgia Tech to cover -3 and the OVER.

Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl (CFP Semi-final), December 31st, 2:00 PM CST.

Washington @ Alabama (-14) [53]. This line continues to inch closer and closer to Bama blowout territory, and I think that's what we're going to see.  For all of the talk about the "SEC being down" Alabama is certainly not, and I think that Washington got a lot of their record on the backs of an overrated PAC-12 conference this year. I typically am not a fan of lines this big however, Saban dominates. Washington 10 Alabama 45. Pick: Alabama to cover -14.

Playstation Fiesta Bowl (CFP Semi-final), December 31st, 6:00 PM CST.

Ohio State (-2.5) @ Clemson. [58.5]. Finding upset potential in these games is a little bit harder than it is with games in the lower tier.  For one, almost everyone has seen these two teams play and we know an awful lot about them.  To my mind, Ohio State has two key advantages that Clemson is going to have to overcome.  Overall talent, and coaching.  But Clemson is by far the better team in terms of QB play, and skill of play makers. I see this game as pretty even, but I think there's a mild upset opportunity to be had here.  Ohio State 24 Clemson 27. Pick: Clemson to win on the ML.

Outback Bowl, Monday, January 2nd, Noon CST.

Florida (-3) @ Iowa. [40.5]. This game could be the snoozer of the day. Neither team is all that good at the offensive side of the game and neither has especially talented players that could surprise either. Iowa has a better QB but Florida has better players almost everywhere else (with the possible exception of O-line).  Both teams are solid defensively, but I think Florida has better players. Florida 17 Iowa 10. Pick: Florida to cover -3 and the UNDER.

Goodyear Cotton Bowl Classic, Monday, January 2nd, Noon CST.

Western Michigan @ Wisconsin (-8.5) [52.5]. Western Michigan is a feel-good story, and Wisconsin's motivation is going to be suspect, at best.  One thing working against the Broncos however is that I just don't think they're very good.  The MAC is terrible this year, having gone 0-5 in bowl games and in danger of becoming the only non-win conference.  And the B1G, is pretty good. Motivation or no I like Wisconsin to win, and I'm pretty sure they do it convincingly. UNLESS they show up unmotivated.  That's why this game is a no-fly zone for me. Western Michigan 10 Wisconsin 31. Pick: Lay off of this. But, if you must: Wisc to cover -8.5 and the under.

Rose Bowl Game Presented by NorthWestern Mutual. Monday, January 2nd, 4:00 PM CST.

USC (-7) @ Penn State. [59.5]. I truly believe that the Trojans might be the 2nd best team in the country, right now. I also believe that Penn State is only a good, not great, football team. I expect USC to score early, and score often. I don't think this one is going to be all that close. Still, aesthetically it's the perfect setting for football. So, worth a watch for that. USC 42 Penn State 13. Pick: USC to cover -7.

Allstate Sugar Bowl. Monday, January 2nd, 7:30 PM CST.

Auburn @ Oklahoma (-3) [63.5]. Auburn is the team that drew the unlucky "well SOMEONE from the SEC has to be in a NY6 Bowl besides Alabama." straw.  Their reward for that? Playing an OU team that rattled off 9 straight wins in conference after starting the season 1-2 with losses at Houston, and AT Ohio State. That's a brutal run followed by a monstrous finish. Auburn meanwhile struggled finishing the season losing to Georgia, and getting dominated by Alabama. How this line is sitting at -3 is beyond me. I'm not griping however. Auburn 10 OU 38. Pick: OU to cover -3 and the UNDER (I don't think Auburn can score enough points to hold up their end for the over).

And that's it.  At least until next week when we have to look at the CFP championship game. (Hint: Alabama will probably be in there and will be favored by at least a Touchdown no matter who they play).

Good luck this weekend, and Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

The Third Batch of Many, (too) Many College Football Bowl Games.

Life is balance.  And balance caused me to miss the last batch of bowl games.  I only had a play on two of them (WV vs. Miami [loss on WV ML] & KSU vs. aTm [Win KSU ML]) with the rest not striking me as all that compelling.  That said, the Pinstripe Bowl was one of my favorite of the year so far.  A highly entertaining game between Northwestern and Pitt that the Wildcats eventually won.

But it was Christmas, and I needed a break and some alone-time with the wife that didn't involve picking college football games.  That's done now, and I'm back, so here's the next fresh, piping hot group of useless predictions....

First, it should be noted that I went 3-3 in the last group of games, including (again) 3 underdogs who pulled the outright upset win.  That puts me at 6-4 for the bowl season (7-5 if you want to include the two plays yesterday, which I did post Twitter via CappedIN.)

Birmingham Bowl, Thursday, December 29th, 1:00 PM CST.

South Florida (-10.5) at South Carolina [61.5]. One of the most difficult things to do in football is to determine bowl motivation. It's why picking bowls is hard, and even the best of experts find themselves sub-.500 more years than not.  That said, I think this is a classic motivation game. South Carolina is happy to be here while South Florida was hoping for better.  I don't think the Gamecocks have the firepower to beat the Bulls, but the American Athletic Conference has looked terrible this year so it wouldn't shock me either. Plus, Willie Taggart is gone.  USF 27 USC 24. Pick: South Carolina to cover +10.5 and you might take a peek at that under.

Belk Bowl, Thursday, December 29th, 4:30 PM CST.

Arkansas @ Virginia Tech (-7) [59.5]. There are few coaches in college football that I dislike more than Bielema.  And I think the SEC is pretty overrated this year.  One thing about the Razorbacks however, they're either going to lay a spectacular egg or they're going to pull a humiliating upset. There never seems to be any middle ground.  Arkansas 10 Virginia Tech 38. Pick: Va Tech to cover -7

Valero Alamo Bowl, Thursday, December 29th, 8:00 PM CST.

Oklahoma State @ Colorado (-3) [62.5]. Typically one of the more frustrating bowl games of the season as this pits the two teams from the Big X(II) and the Pac-12 who just missed a NY6 bowl. It promises fireworks, and often delivers, but it's brutal to pick because you never know who's going to show up and who isn't.  HUGE lay-off game for me. But, since it must be done. Oklahoma State 42 Colorado 45. Pick (such as it is) OVER.

Autozone Liberty Bowl. Friday, December 30th, 11:00 AM CST.

Georgia @ Texas Christian University (-2.5) [48.5]. This bowl has gotten a LOT better since it stopped being the championship payoff for the C-USA. You typically get an under-the-radar matchup between two teams who were disappointing in their conference but who want to use this as a springboard toward the next year. I see the same here. What I also see is that Georgia will have much better QB play than will a TCU team whose defense has also been abysmal this year. Georgia 35 TCU 17. Pick: Georgia on the ML for the mild upset.

Hyundai Sun Bowl, Friday, December 30th, 1:00 PM CST.

Stanford (-2.5) @ North Carolina [54]. Everyone's favorite "out there" bowl game keeps on keeping on as CBS' lone bright spot of the bowl season. The bowl that the Foster Farms Bowl is aspiring to become for Fox. If you like college football you like the Sun Bowl.  This year especially so because we're going to find out if Stanford can do anything offensively sans McCafferey.  My bet is no.  I also think UNC has a good team and the PAC-12 is overrated talk heading into the Bama/UDub semi-final game is going to be deafening. Stanford 7 UNC 28. Pick: UNC on the ML for the mild upset.

Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl. Friday, December 30th, 2:30 PM CST

Nebraska @ Tennessee (-6.5) [58.5]. The powers that be at ESPN hope that you watch the Liberty Bowl, and then don't change the channel to watch this mess of a game pitting two teams who underachieved all year against one another.  Nebraska will be missing star QB Tommy Armstrong, who is "hoping" to be available as a backup.  Tennessee is a hot mess.  Watch the Sun Bowl instead.  I've got no feel for this game as the Cornhuskers are tough to decipher, and the Volunteers have been a beautiful disaster all season.  But still.... Nebraska 10 Tennessee 30.  Pick: I guess play the UNDER, but I'm not touching this mess.

Nova Homes Arizona Bowl. Friday, December 30th, 4:30 PM CST.

South Alabama @ Air Force. (-13.5) [57]. Why this game is played on Friday and not during the first week of the bowl season is beyond me.  It's out of place, out of a good time slot, and will be relegated to ESPN 2 which means that it's going to be lightly watched as well.  South Alabama was a good story this year, they had a great upset and a good season, but Air Force is just too good. I don't think this one will be close. South Alabama 20 Air Force 52. Pick: Air Force to cover -13.5 and the OVER.

Capitol One Orange Bowl. Friday, December 30th, 7:00 PM CST.

Michigan (-6.5) @ Florida State [52]. Pretty much every pundit in the country, excepting Joey Galloway, thinks that this Michigan team is good.  Galloway thinks they're "hype" which doesn't explain why they came within one inch of besting his beloved Buckeyes. But Joey's season-long idiocy aside there are two very talented teams matching up here. Yes, Dalvin Cook will be out and Michigan's defense is going to stifle Florida State's inconsistent Freshman QB.  But the Florida State defense is for real and should keep this relatively close.  As is my custom, I never (ever) make picks on Michigan games because I always believe they are going to win by 30 (unless they are playing Ohio State of course, and I continue to maintain that I'll be happily wrong the first time they beat the Buckeyes.)  Michigan 33 Florida State 3.   Pick: Go Blue!!!

I'll be back with the final batch of games, probably on Saturday morning. Including the two CFP games although I'm unsure if I'm going to have plays on that more than I just have predictions and some analysis.

Monday, December 19, 2016

The Second Batch of many, (too) many College Football Bowl Games.

After a fairly successful start (3-1 including 3 under dogs selected on the money line.) It's time to take a look at the next group of games.  As with the first five, I might, or might not, have a pick to offer here.  On every game I'll offer up at least something, but I'll let you know just how strongly I feel about it.

If I don't feel good at all, I'm not counting it as a pick b/c while it's a lean it's nothing that I would recommend playing.

Get it?  Got it?


Boca Raton Bowl. Tuesday, December 20th. 6:00 PM CST.

Memphis @ Western Kentucky (-5) [O/U 79]. This is one of those games where both teams have motivations issues and the outcome is about as predictable as is the weather, next month, during a specific minute.  All I can say here is pass, pass. pass and just enjoy what should be a fairly competitive game matching up two teams with pretty decent offenses and not much on the way of defense.  Since I have to lean some way, I'm leaning toward the Tigers. Memphis 35 WKU 38. Pick: Memphis to cover -5.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Wednesday, December 21st. 8:00 PM CST.

BYU (-9) @ Wyoming. [57.5]. There are a lot of reasons to like the Cowboys here. First, they are quite possibly the best coached team in the FBS not named Alabama, and they get more out of sub-par athletic ability than anyone.  Second, they haven't been bowling in a while so they should be fired up.  But this is BYU, and this is (finally) going to be Cougar QB Taysom Hill's final game.  That said, I like the Cowboys to keep this one close, but not enough to pull another call for a money line upset bet. BYU 27 Wyoming 23. Pick Wyoming to cover +9 

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Thursday, December 22nd. 6:00 PM CST.

Idaho @ Colorado State (-13.5) [64.5]. On paper this feels like a Ram's blowout win. But I can't get over the fact that Idaho is much improved this year, and this is, functionally, a home game for the Vandals despite being played on the Smurf-Turf at Boise.  Odds are, it will be cold, which should bother neither team.  I expect points to be plentiful however because I've not seen much from either team in the way of defense this year. Idaho 31 Colorado State 38. Pick: Idaho to cover +13.5

Popeye's Bahama's Bowl. Friday, December 23rd. Noon, CST.

Eastern Michigan @ Old Dominion (-4) [65]. How bad is Eastern Michigan football?  This is their first bowl appearance since 1987.  And even then they can't silence the large crowd who says they should drop to the FCS. Old Dominion is recently elevated to the FBS and this is their first bowl berth in school history.  Needless to say, effort and enthusiasm should not be a question in this game.  What is a question is team strength, and I think ODU is the MUCH stronger team here.  They have a better record, and play in a better conference. I don't think this one will be close. EMU 10 ODU 42. Pick: ODU to cover -4. Might take a stab at the UNDER as well.

Lockeed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Friday, December 23rd. 3:30 PM CST.

Louisiana Tech (-6) @ Navy. [66.5]. Motivation for Navy is the huge question in this game. They were speaking not-so-quietly about a possible NY6 bowl until disaster struck, in the form of injuries to their starting QB and defensive leader, in the AAC Championship game. La-Tech should be happy to be here and has an extended time to prepare for Navy's unorthadox triple option offense. I think La Tech has enough talent to win by a couple of scores. La Tech 35 Navy 21. Pick: La Tech to cover -6.

Dollar General Bowl. Friday, December 23rd, 7:00 PM CST.

Ohio @ Troy (-4) [49.5] This seems like it could be a not-fun way to end the bowl day. I think it's going to be a pretty good game however.  Troy is a good SunBelt team that has two respectable losses (close to Clemson and Georgia Southern) on its resume and one head-scratcher (a blowout loss to Arkansas State) while Ohio won their division, played Tennessee and Western Michigan close, but has to look back to losses against Texas State and Eastern Michigan and think WTF?  Bobcat head coach Frank Solich has been doing it at Ohio for a while now, and seems to consistently field good, if not flashy teams that are JUST not good enough to win the MAC.  Coaching to Ohio then, athletic ability to Troy.  Ohio 17 Troy 20. Pick: Ohio to cover +4.

Right now the Christmas Eve Hawai'i Bowl has been taken down from most boards due to a collarbone injury to Middle Tennessee QB Brent Stockstill. Until his status is known it's impossible to handicap this game so we'll be watching (and waiting) and will update when we can.

Until then, enjoy the games.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

The first batch of many, (too)many College Football Bowl Games.

Once again we find ourselves on the cusp of a mess of a college football bowl season. If you're a dedicated college football fan (me) then this is the best time of the year. If you're a casual football fan this can be some hilariously bad football. If you're a fan of the NFL?  Just go away, this blog post has nothing for you.

There are, once again, over 40(!) bowl games being played from the major (the College Football Playoff) to the so-called "minor" (many of the games in this post).  Of course, to the teams playing, and their fans, these games are critical, they provide one last chance to see their teams play, they allow for a (sometimes) nice vacation during the Holiday season, and they offer the teams playing a group of extra practices that teams not qualified for a bowl do not receive.

The first games start this weekend, and they have a couple of very interesting match-ups right off the bat.

Let's dig in shall we?

Gildan New Mexico Bowl. Saturday, December 17th 1:00 PM CST.

New Mexico [7-4] (-7) vs. Texas San Antonio[6-6] O/U 62.5. Under head coach Brad Davies the Wolfpack of New Mexico had a good season and actually, for a few weeks, seemed as if they might make some noise in the Mountain West. Instead, they get a bowl matchup against a UT-SA team that showed some improvement as well.  Both teams settled around 50% when it came to covering the spread (NM 5-6, UTSA 6-5-1). My numbers show this game to be about a touchdown difference, so I'm not doing a thing here.  New Mexico 42 UT-SA 35.  Pick: OVER

Las Vegas Bowl Presented by GEICO, Saturday, December 17th 2:30 PM CST.

Houston [9-3] (-3.5) @SDSU [10-3] O/U 54.5. This is a classic "motivation" game. Houston was hoping for much better than this when the season started, has lost their coach to UT-Austin, and is desperately trying to hold things together from a recruiting perspective under new HC Major Applewhite. SDSU won the Mountain West and, while still disappointed, is in the best bowl game for them. On paper this is the most exciting bowl matchup of the day, but these games aren't played on paper.  This is the game that I will be watching because Brent Musberger and Jesse Palmer will be in the booth.  Houston 33 SDSU 39 Pick: SDSU on the moneyline and OVER.

Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. Saturday, December 17th 4:30 PM CST.

Toledo [9-3] (-1) @ Appalachian State [9-3]. O/U 57. This little ball game is possibly my favorite line of the day. Coming from the SunBelt Conference App State does not get much in the way of love from bettors, and to be honest, they're not that great against the spread this year (6-6). But I've no faith in the Toledo Rockets and I think App State gets the upset here. Toledo 27 App State 33. Pick: Appalachian State on the moneyline.

AutoNation Cure Bowl, Saturday, December 17th, 4:30 PM CST.

UCF [6-6] (-6) @ Arkansas State [7-5]. O/U 49.5. Another "upset special" where I think a SunBelt conference team is getting short shrift because they're a SunBelt conference team. In addition, I see some over potential here. Arkansas State has a dynamic offense that can put a bunch of points on the board, but they struggle defensively which should allow a revitalized UCF team score as well.  The deciding factor, to me, is team speed. Arkansas State has a ton more of it than the Knights. UCF 27 Arkansas State 38. Pick: Arkansas State on the moneyline and the OVER.

R + L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. Saturday, December 17th, 8:00 PM CST.

Southern Mississippi [6-6] (-4) @ University of Louisiana Lafayette. [6-6]. O/U 58. Two teams with similar records that don't reveal how their seasons really went. USM was 3-9 against the spread while ULaLa was 8-4.  The Cajuns are yet ANOTHER good SunBelt team that usually gets some funny odds due to their conference affiliation. It seems the public just hasn't caught on in regards to these teams.  Southern Miss had a great year given the depths to which their program had fallen, and ULaLa took a step back during an injury plagued year. I expect this one to be close. USM 27 ULaLa 28. Pick: ULaLa to Cover +4.

Miami Beach Bowl. Monday, December 19th, 1:30 PM CST.

Central Michigan [6-6] @ Tulsa [9-3] (-11.5) O/U 68.5. To my mind, this is the biggest mismatch of the first batch of games. Central Michigan got a lot of press for beating Oklahoma State on a play that never should have happened. Tulsa has been one of the top offensive teams in the country all season long. Tulsa is also, perhaps surprisingly, going to keep head coach Philip Montgomery for at least another season.  In terms of motivation that's huge.  The MAC conference was among the weakest in college football this year, I'd have a problem picking them against almost anyone. CMU 14 Tulsa 56. Pick: Tulsa to cover -11.5.

And that's all I've got for the early slate.  Fade, follow, or ignore. Whatever, just enjoy the games.  I know that I will.

Monday, December 5, 2016

College Football: The Good (And Bad) of the Bowl Schedule.

On Sunday everything was finalized for College Football.  The College Football Playoff Committee made their choices, which almost everyone declared to either be either the best or worst of all worlds, there is no middle ground. In all fairness however, this year, the strange and crazy year, provided the Committee with a no-win situation.

Should Penn State have been in the top 4? Possibly.  But they lost to Michigan 49-10 and they lost to Pitt 42-39.  Washington did get in, with one of the weakest strength of schedules you're likely to see in a top 4 team. Ohio State also got in, despite losing to Penn State.  Oklahoma was out, despite running the table in the Big XII but losing to Houston and Ohio State, the latter at home. Michigan got left out, despite beating up Penn State but losing to Iowa and Ohio State, both on the road.

As it stands though, this is your top six.

1. Alabama. (13-0) - No arguments here. Consistently the best team in the land, the defending champion, undefeated and almost unchallenged most of the year.

2. Clemson (12-1) - Again, no arguments. And while Virginia Tech made it close in the ACC Championship game this is the team most likely to have a shot at challenging Alabama.

3. Ohio State (11-1) - No 13th game for the Buckeyes because Penn State beat them and played for the B1G championship. It's hard to argue against them unless you believe that winning the conference is of the utmost importance.

4. Washington (12-1) - The Pac-12 champions whose out of conference schedule included Rutgers, Idaho and Portand State. That loss to USC doesn't bode well for their chances to beat Alabama.

5. Penn State (11-2) - The team with the strongest argument for inclusion due to their winning the B1G and beating Ohio State.  Except they lost badly to.....

6. Michigan (10-2) - Has a fringe argument, except they lost to Iowa and Ohio State. Still, had a good season.

But the big games happen later in the schedule.  First things first, this season is gifting us with 41(!!) bowl match-ups, a handful involving 5-7 teams which is a sure-fire sign we have too many bowls. The thing is, we keep adding bowls and not retracting, so there's going to come a time when we run out of 5-7 teams if this keeps up.

As with any bowl season there are some good games (on paper) some bad, and some downright ugly. Here are my initial thoughts.

Games to watch:

Las Vegas Bowl 
Houston vs. San Diego State University. 3:30 PM EST, December 17th

One of the pluses of ESPN ownership of multiple bowl games is that they're allowed to tweak the invitations among them to better the match-ups.  This is the case here. UH was originally slotted into the St. Petersburg Bowl, where they would have likely played Mississippi State. A mid-Decmeber match-up against Donnel Pumphrey and the Aztecs is much more interesting. The only caveat to this is that Houston might lack motivation.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
BYU vs. Wyoming. 9 PM EST, December 21st.

This should be a solid match-up pitting two well coached teams against one another in a game that's usually exciting.  Wyoming head-coach Craig Bohl has the Cowboys on the map in his first season of back-to-back-to-back-to-back-to-back FCS Championships at NDSU.

Popeye's Bahamas Bowl
Old Dominion vs. Eastern Michigan, 1PM EST December 23rd.

There are worse things you could do while wrapping presents than tuning into this game pitting two teams with no bowl history matching up in the Bahamas. You probably haven't seen these two teams play much, which is another reason to tune in.

Russell Athletic Bowl
West Virginia vs. Miami(Fl) 5:30 PM EST, December 28th.

Possibly the most entertaining head coaching match-up as newly extended Dana Holgerson of West Virginia takes on first year Miami coach Mark Richt. Richt did a good job with Miami this year and Dana has a defense. I'm thinking this is a competitive game if both teams are motivated.

AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl.
Texas A&M vs. Kansas State. 9:00 PM EST, December 28th.

Any time you can get aTm playing a Big XII team it's a good thing.  This is also likely to be K-State coach Bill Snyder's last game so that's worth the price of admission in and of itself.

Valero Alamo Bowl
Oklahoma State vs. Colorado. 9:00 PM EST, December 29th.

This game is typically a flat affair between two teams that had NY6 bowl hopes but got blasted in the championship game.  It's no different this year but I think these two former Big 8 rivals might decide that they don't want to lose this game.

Capital One Orange Bowl
Michigan vs. Florida State. 8:00 PM EST, December 30th.

The first of the so-called 'NY6' bowls this one gives us a match-up between Florida State's offense, and Michigan's excellent defense. I'm expecting a low-scoring, hard hitting affair.

Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl.
LSU vs. Louisville, 11:00 AM EST, December 31st.

Wake up early on New Year's Eve and watch this. Lamar Jackson vs the LSU defense alone makes this potentially one of the better things in what has been a fairly crap 2016 to be honest.

Rose Bowl
USC vs. Penn State, 5:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

If nothing else, the Rose Bowl is the best of the bowl games just because.  Plus, this might be the last chance you get to see Adoree Jackson play college football. The setting is beautiful, so wake up early, watch the parade and get ready for college football as it's meant to be.

Games to miss: (I'll be watching most of these, so you don't have to)

St. Petersburg Bowl
Miami(OH) vs. Mississippi State. 11:00 AM, December 26th.

A bowl game pitting a team that went 0-6 before winning it's last six to become bowl eligible versus as 5-7 Bulldog team whose coach has mailed it in this year?  I would wake up early and possibly go to the malls to spend your Christmas money rather than watch this snoozer.

National Funding Holiday Bowl
Minnesota vs. Washington State. 7 PM EST, December 27th.

Two 6-6 teams that are ranked 88th and 89th in ARPI respectively. This is the most average, middle of the road bowl in possibly ever. Plus, I don't think Minnesota has the team speed to hang with Wazzu. I'm not expecting a very compelling game.

Motel 6 Cactus Bowl.
Baylor vs. Boise State. 10:15 PM EST, December 27th

Baylor should have declined a bowl invite and ended this disaster of a season. But, it's Baylor, so they didn't.  That doesn't mean that you should stay up late to watch this mess.

Belk Bowl
Arkansas vs. Virginia Tech. 5:30 PM EST, December 29th.

There's not a lot to get excited about in this pairing, as an overrated Arkansas team looks to get demolished by Virginia Tech. Unless, and this is more likely, neither team shows up very motivated.

Pure ugliness (I'm not even sure I'll be watching this one.)

Outback Bowl
Florida vs. Iowa. 1:00 PM EST, January 2nd.

A noon kick off the day after New Year's provides little reason to not sleep way in.  This is your last day of the holiday. Don't waste it watching this snoozer of a game.

Obviously also you're going to want to watch the College Football Playoff games, except for the late game played on December 31st. (Again, I'll be at home watching because I don't go out on amateur night)  I'll be back with full reviews of all the games in segments as we get closer to them.

Get some rest. It's going to be a long bowl season to cap off what was an entertaining year of College Football.

Friday, December 2, 2016

College Football: The CFP is designed to take the money and run.....unless.

There's starting to be a growing amount of writing suggesting that an expansion of the College Football Playoff, from 4 to 8 teams, is the 'fairest' way to go. The thought behind this being that with 5 power conferences and only 4 open slots there are always going to be deserving teams that, to be blunt, get the shaft.

While I agree with the expansion calls, I think that they don't go far enough.  If you want to make the playoff truly fair then you expand to a point that every conference champion gets in. Yes, I'm including Group of 5 conferences in this scenario. To get to that you would need to expand to (at least) 12 teams. Giving the Top 4 seeds byes and allowing the remaining 8 to play each other in week one.

This would leave you with 8 teams and off we go.

"THIS CANNOT HAPPEN!!!" those who run the bowls would say.  "What about academics?!?!" "What about the Holidays?!?!"

Of course, none of the people hollering those questions worry about it too much in terms of basketball, or soccer, or volleyball.

In fact, the only reason to not expand  the College Football Playoff is to continue to prop up an antiquated bowl system that's pilfering the athletic budgets of participating schools for profit.

It's time to sweep away the vestiges of the past, retire the old codgers wearing garish blazers and put the crumbling bowl system out of its misery.

Win your conference, or make the playoff as an at-large team or your season's done, period. Then you don't have to worry about 5-7 teams making it into bowls or whether or not Texas would accept a bid. Then you don't have to moan and complain that a 5-7 team is playing a 6-6 team in the Havana Cigar Bowl.

All you have to worry about is the 12 teams that qualified to make it into the post-season.

Purists will say that this "cheapens the regular season" which is bunk. Conference titles still matter, as do overall win/loss records, especially when it comes to out of conference scheduling for at-large teams. In other words, teams that schedule hard, and have so-called "good" losses on their records and come in second in their conference would be rewarded over Baylor who plays schools barely able to field a good roster. (This is assuming Baylor football isn't barred from ever participating, which they should be, to remove temptation.)

Despite all of this I'm here to predict that nothing is going to change, at least not until the current CFP deal runs it's course in 2024, and maybe not even then. The reason is simple.

In order to drive change in college football you have to have a scenario where a helmet school is on the blunt end of a CFP snub.  Ohio State this year would be a prime example. Were the Buckeyes to be left out of the playoff in favor of a Penn State, or Wisconsin, B1G Champion then you might see some upheaval. If Alabama lost to Florida (snicker) in the SEC Championship and got snubbed then you might hear some grumbling. In fact, you would certainly hear some grumbling then because all of those Auburn, Florida, aTm, LSU, and Miss State fans would lose their main reason for shouting "S! E! C!" every time the Tide does something good.

You wanna gripe about "cheapening the regular season"?  This is going to be your year.

Because Ohio State lost to Penn State in the regular season and, if the latter wins, the former is a shoe-in to be included in the CFP regardless.  In short, what happened in the regular season didn't matter one bit because the committee *thinks* that OSU is the better team.

They know this because they've been watching football for a long time, and have been involved with it. If you question them they appeal back to that authority that you just don't have.

And this year they're going to be 100% wrong, and the year after that, and the year after that etc.

Even firing Larry Culpepper won't change that reality.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

College Football: Bring on the Championship Games. (FunBelt Excluded)

In the minds of many, the upcoming weekend is the best of the College Football season.  No, it's not the beginning of the CFP (which, this year, is 100% certain to get it 100% wrong) but the weekend when most conferences crown their annual champion leading to many locker room celebration and the triggering of bonus payout clauses in coaching contracts.

Yay money!

Currently there are two (2) of the Ten (10) FBS conferences that don't have a championship game. Fortunately for one of them (Big XII) the annual Bedlam matchup between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State is a de-facto Championship since they are the only two teams with either zero (OU) or 1 (OSU) conference loss.  There will be no "co-champions" in the Big XII this year.  What's going to keep them out of the CFP is that, no matter who wins, the eventual conference champion is going to have 2 losses overall, with no OOC marquee wins to show for it.

As for the SunBelt?  Sorry guys.  Better luck next year.  Appalachian State has already claimed at least a share of the crown, they just don't know who, if anyone, they will be sharing it with. Both Troy and Arkansas State have games this weekend that determine which of them, or if both of them, can join the Mountaineers at the top.

Unfortunately, again this week, the SEC gives us yet another week when their premier team (Alabama) finds a walkover opponent (Florida).   All that's missing is a 6-7 figure payment from Tuscaloosa to Gainesville as an incentive for the latter to get rolled by the Tide.

On to the games. (Note: MOST (not all) of these games are neutral site games. Be sure to check on that before you dive in.  In many cases I've factored that in even if I didn't mention it here)

MAC: Western Michigan (-18.5) @ Ohio. Not enough credit is given to Frank Solich who continues to win, at Ohio, at the pace he won at Nebraska before being summarily dismissed by a team that hasn't been the same since. He is an underrated coach who seems to be happy in his current role.  The same can't be said for P.J. Fleck, who is a poor-man's Tom Herman who is now facing, for the first time, real, honest-to-goodness speculation that he's going to be rowing the boat elsewhere next season. (Oregon would be a GREAT fit IMO).

A few years back I remember a Houston team, then coached by Kevin Sumlin, who walked into their conference championship game with rumors swirling that their head coach was departing. The result was a blowout of an unfocused, unprepared Cougar squad by a well-coached Southern Miss team.

The difference here is that I think P.J. Fleck is a better coach than Sumlin.  It will be close, because Solich can coach, but I think Fleck gets the conference crown that has heretofore eluded Kevin Sumlin.

Western Michigan 38 Ohio 30.

Pick:  Ohio to cover +18.5 

PAC 12: Colorado @ Washington (-7.5). Except for developing issues unwrapping a Trojan, this has been a dream season for the Huskies. But Colorado has been stellar as well, before breaking against the same team.  (OK, sorry).  But while Colorado has a "happy to be here" factor working for it Washington enters this game with some real pressure.  The consensus for the Huskies is "win, and you're in" to the College Football Playoff. Head Coach Chris Peterson is no stranger to big game situations, but he's typically come into them as an underdog when he was in charge at Boise State. We honestly have zero frame of reference for the Mike McIntyre coached Buffalo because, to be honest, this is the first truly "big" game they have played in almost a decade.

If anything, the common opponent litmus test (which is somewhat useless in college football but I'll mention it anyway) tells us that Washington has been better against the same, excepting the aforementioned Trojans. Washington is better at QB, RB, WR, O-line, TE, DB, DL, LB and Special Teams. Colorado should be playing fast and loose.

Washington is listed as the Home team but this is really a neutral-site game.

Colorado 24 Washington 28.

Pick: Colorado to cover +7.5 and the UNDER.

American: Temple @ Navy (-3). The conventional wisdom surrounding the Group of 5 teams is that if Western Michigan wins, then the Broncos are the shoo-in to receive the New Year's Six guarantee. The fly in the ointment here is Navy, who have a better resume than does WMU and who play in a tougher conference to boot. In fact, head's up on a neutral field, there are few that would probably take WMU over the Mid-Shipmen. And I can guarantee you there are fewer Power 5 teams who would rather face the latter over the former to boot.

Temple is a team that started off rough, with a loss to Army, but which rebounded nicely once conference play started. They also avoided playing Houston this year, which helped them a lot. One problem for Temple is that they're suffering the curse of good G5 teams. Head Coach Matt Rhule is suddenly a hot commodity for P5 programs looking to upgrade.

Navy's Triple option offense is difficult to prepare for, unless you have an extended period to prepare. Temple, unfortunately, doesn't.  But I think their defense is just good enough to keep this game from morphing into a blowout early, provided the players and coaches haven't been too busy pondering life without Rhule.

Temple 27 Navy 34

Pick: Navy to Cover -3.

Conference USA: Louisiana Tech @ Western Kentucky (-9.5). There was a (brief) time when C-USA was the unquestioned premier Group of 5 conference in the land. They had Cincinnati, Houston, Louisville, and (briefly) TCU.  Winning this league meant that you had a very, very good football team and they had a stronger argument of being the "sixth" power conference than the American does today.

Sadly, the last round of expansion gutted them, they picked up the dregs of other conferences and soldier on without much exposure and one of the worst television contracts in college football. People forget that these two teams played each other, back in early October, with Tech taking a 55-52 win over the Hilltoppers, AT Western Kentucky.

That was the last game Western Kentucky lost however, as the team, coached by Jeff Brohm, went on a tear and started playing their best football at the right time. Meanwhile, the Skip Holtz coached Bulldogs did what Skip Holtz teams do and faltered down the stretch, losing an inexplicable game to Southern Mississippi last week. Were they looking ahead?

I don't think so.

La Tech 24 Western Kentucky 42

Pick: Western Kentucky to cover -9.5.

Mountain West:  San Diego State University (-6.5) @ Wyoming. Let's talk for a minute about last week.  It's never good for a conference, especially one that's been hyped as being "all that" all year to have their two "best" teams housed at identical moments right before they match up in the championship game. But that's what happened as SDSU got humiliated by Colorado State 63-31 and Wyoming got hammered 56-35 by New Mexico.

These teams played each other two games prior, with Wyoming winning by one point, 34-33
 at home.  Prior to that however the Cowboys lost 66-69 to UNLV at the Big Craps Table in Las Vegas.  It's safe to say that neither team has done much to distinguish itself.

Wyoming Head Coach Craig Bohl, formerly of NDSU-multiple-FCS-National-Championships fame, is a good football coach who knows how to prepare his team for big games. The Aztec's Rocky Long doesn't have that pedigree, and early returns show that focus is a problem.  What the Aztec's do have going for them is Donnel Pumphrey, the best running back in the country you might not have heard of, or seen.

Wyoming doesn't have that kind of game-breaking ability, but they did gift the college football world with the safety dance which was one of the better things to come out of the football season.  Add to that the fact they're very well coached, and I think we have a game that's much, much closer than the odds-makers think.

SDSU 35 Wyoming 32.

Pick: Wyoming to cover +6.5

Bedlam (Big XII de-facto Championship game) Oklahoma State @ Oklahoma (-11.5) Since 1999, when Bob Stoops took over as HC of OU, this series has tilted heavily toward the Sooners and the scores have traditionally not been all that close. In fact, the recent trends for this game are that when the Sooners win, they win big and when the Cowboys win, they win close. Sure, there are aberrations (2011's 44-10 shellacking of OU by OSU for example) but on balance those trends hold.

Bedlam is also a "rivalry" game that's decidedly one-sided, with OU holding a 85-18-7 advantage. Over 110 games that equates to an OSU win every six years. To be fair however, OSU has done better in recent years, taking seven of the last 23 games. That equates to a win every 3 1/2 years.  So OSU has gotten better, and when they have talent they are fairly competitive with the Sooners.

This year I think the Cowboys have some talent, especially on offense.  And the Sooners, despite having a good season, are not what they once were on defense.  Of course, the Cowboys aren't getting the turnovers they once did so my gut-feeling is that this is going to be a shootout.  But not a crazy, bet the rent on the over kind. (the O/U number for this game is currently around 77 depending on the book)

OSU 42 OU 49

Pick: Oklahoma State to cover +11.5  Maybe throw a little at the OVER but not much.

SEC: Alabama (-24) @ Florida. The SEC (L)East is weak. So weak that they offered up Florida, a team absent a college offense, as a sacrificial lamb to the fighting Sabans. There's really not much to say about this game except that it's going to be on TV, and it will (likely) be the last SEC game called by Verne Lundquist.  It's a shame he didn't get a better one. Maybe the Gators will surprise, but I can't see how.

Bama 35 Florida 3.

Pick: So many touts talk about "5 star" and "4 star" games etc. For me this is a 1/100th star game. If you must, Bama to cover -24, and take the UNDER (currently at 41) because this is going to be a one-handed offensive game.

ACC: Clemson (-10) @ Virginia Tech. Almost a mirror image of the Pac-12 Championship game, except that Clemson, the team with everything to lose, has been involved in the CFP before.

New Head Coach Justin Fuente took his act from Memphis and did just about the best job you can replacing a legend. The old saying in coaching: "You don't want to be the man who replaces the man, you want to replace the man who replaced the man" (Hi, Tom Herman) seems to not apply to Fuente early.

Of course, the difference between Frank Beemer and Mack Brown is that the former left his successor with some talent to work with, while the latter did not. Also, Fuente doesn't have prominent donors calling him a "coordinator" due primarily to his skin-tone wither. It just does to show how some schools, despite having a resource advantage, can be a cess-pool while others, with less resources, might not be.

Clemson, on the other hand, has everything. Resources, talent, a committed head coach.  Everything except a dominant performance this year. This is a team that's been so good, it's hard to imagine that they're catching shade of not blowing out opponents by 50 every week.

As good as the Hokies have been, I think they get a lesson here in just how good they're going to have to be in order to beat the likes of Clemson and Florida State.

Clemson 38 Virginia Tech 13

Pick: Clemson to cover -10

B1G: Wisconsin (-2.5) @ Penn State. This is not the B1G championship game you were looking for. That was actually played last week when Ohio State rode 3-Wilton Speight turnovers, and some untimely Wolverine defensive lapses, to a win.  Because, title-game aside, the question of who the best team in the B1G is was answered in the Horseshoe.

That said, Penn State went and messed up the apple cart by squeaking out a win over an Ohio State team that didn't react well to the white out.  That game should serve as a reminder to all: It's hard, damn hard, to win a conference game on the road against a better-than-average team.

So that leaves us with the 3rd and 4th best teams in the conference, meeting up to play for the trophy, while Ohio State (probably) beats them both our for the B1G's slot in the CFP as the committee again moves the goalposts to a different location to benefit helmet schools.  C'est la vie folks.

What this game does promise to provide is a pretty stiff defensive challenge for both teams. Amazingly, the O/U for this game currently rests at around 47, making that play just about the best line I've seen all year.

I'm predicting a FG fest, with maybe a TD (or two) sprinkled in for good measure, maybe even of the defensive or special teams variety.

Wisky 16 Penn State 6

Pick: Wisky to cover -2.5 and the UNDER. (Which probably means the game will go over by the 2nd period)

Other games of some interest....

Fun Belt/Sun Belt.

Remember I stated that the Sun Belt didn't have a championship game and that both Troy and Arkansas State had a chance for co-titles.  Yeah, I think they both get there but one school has a much tougher (and less tragic) road.

Troy (-7) @ Georgia Southern. The Eagles of Ga. Southern had a new coach this year, Tyson Summers, who inherited a lot of young talent from former HC, and current Tuland head man, Willie Fritz.  Still, Troy.  Troy 38 Georgia Southern 24.  Pick: Troy to cover -7.

Arkansas State (-24) @ Texas State. Earlier in the season Texas State had a tragic bus crash that injured one player and 5 others. Fortunately, the injuries were minor but it was a fitting symbol for the Bobcats season, where they are widely regarded as the worst FBS program. Here's hoping they turn it around next year because San Marcos is a great town, what Austin used to before it morphed into the pit it is today.  Arkansas State 49 TxSt 10. Arkansas State to cover -24.

One last pick:

Big XII: Kansas State @ Texas Christian University (-4.5).  To my mind this is potentially the best line of the week. This is, essentially, Bill Snyder's last regular season game and you know the players want to send him out with a win. Add to this the fact that TCU is one of the more disappointing teams in CFB this year?  K-State 27 TCU 24. Pick K-State on the ML.

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